“How to succeed in your own space on someone else’s time” By Jack Hiltner

Remote internships skyrocketed in the last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and while the contact with our peers has been extremely limited, it has its own benefits. For one, we’ve become a lot more comfortable in our work space because we designed it ourselves. It’s been a breath of fresh air being able to complete work without worrying about what’s going on around me. I’ve been able to devote more time to my projects as I work for multiple organizations on top of my internship. The remote side of an internship also has its cons, however. While I may get my projects done, staying on-task and free of distractions became a new challenge. Thankfully, I was able to identify a few steps that would put me back on track with my work and keep me in a productive mindset.

Create consistency

While it may seem mundane to do the same thing every single day, it does allow distractible people such as myself to create a rhythm that remains successful. Waking up at the same time and blocking out time in your day for particular projects, meetings, breaks, etc. can make a world of difference and eventually you may find yourself with spare time. What you choose to do with this spare time is up to you, but I’ve found it to be a great opportunity to go outside and enjoy the weather. My work day lasts a total of 6 hours, and that’s an informed choice that I made following a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that found workdays of 8 hours or more can lead to an increase in health problems. I block out my meetings and deadlines for projects and make those my main priorities which allows for the times in between to be filled by basic tasks and shorter correspondence (emails, updates, the works). The latest I’ll schedule anything to be done is 7 pm and most days I finish up much earlier than that. Though my work days are shorter than the normal 8 hour days, I get the same amount of work done due to proactive planning and scheduling. Creating that time limit leads into the next step to create that balance usually acquired by physically going to the office.

“I’ll get to it in the morning”

And you will! Recognizing when the work day is over is crucial to preventing burnout. When I log out of my internship’s resources for the day, it’s final. Anything after that cutoff will be added to my list for the next day and allocated to those gap periods so as to not interrupt my already-planned schedule. Responding to emails late at night tells other people that you don’t mind staying afterwards. While you may not mind, the issues start when the excess work piles up and you lose sight of that limit you set for yourself. Unless your job states that you’re up at all hours of the night for a simple graphic, go to bed. If you’re having trouble staying focused during the day, set timers on your phone or somewhere else that line up with the amount of time you’ve allotted for those tasks. 

Write it down

I’ll be the first to admit that my memory is an absolute goner when it comes to deadlines set weeks in advance. As I mentioned earlier, I block out my days into times for meetings, projects–the works. Part of that process takes place weeks in advance when I write it down in my notebook. Some people would recommend putting it into a Google Calendar or even using your calendar app, but I disagree. I look at my calendar after I finish my work and the last thing I want to see is a reminder for a meeting the next day. With a notebook, I can close it at the same time I finish my workday (boundaries!!). An online calendar will just hound you with notifications until you’re inevitably back at your desk. For more visual learners, techniques exist to build off of that like filling in a box or a visual map of your day. Find what works for you and follow that method, revise it as needed and you’re golden. 

It’s easy to get caught up in your job if you’re remote. You may feel like you’re doing less at home than in an office, but with the right structuring and tools you can exceed your own expectations without risking burnout. 

Jack Hiltner is a junior studying journalism-strategic communication and is the 2021-22 VP of Social Media for Scripps PRSSA. Follow him on Twitter here and on LinkedIn here.

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